Best of the Midwest

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Sometimes I think about what it would be like to live in other parts of the country, sometimes I think that it would be better to live somewhere warmer, more populous, or just generally “nicer,” – whatever that means.

However, every now and then, I am blissfully reminded of just how beautiful the Midwest can be, and it soon becomes clear why it sucks people in. The old saying of “you never leave Ohio” becomes painfully real – and all it takes is a brisk walk through the canal system on a warm summer evening.

There is a lot to hate about Ohio. The brutal winters, the stuffy humidity, and the rainstorms that seem to pop up at the worst possible times. But there is also a lot to love about Ohio.

Ohio is a place where family and friends rule, the people are tough, and the scenery is a hidden beauty that only certain people will ever see. Sure, it’s not the rolling beach, forests of palm trees, or rolling sands of the Southwest. But it’s Ohio, it’s ours, and it really isn’t that bad when you just open your eyes.

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Sunset Over Ohio

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It’s funny how nature doesn’t know.

Nature doesn’t know about pandemics, in the sense we do. It doesn’t know about poverty, worry, abundance, or anything that we worry about daily. Nature doesn’t think about bills, schoolwork, daycare, or mortgages. It just exists, going on its daily routine from one sunset to another, it schedule about as rigid as a river.

Sometimes I am sure we all wish we could be nature. We all wish we could put everything that’s bothering us away, and just worry about getting enough sunlight. Stop worrying about the daily grind, deadlines, and only think about the stars at night.

Even in the bustle of the world around it, nature sits alone, calm, and quiet. I wish we could all be as tranquil, and find peace within the air around us.

We’ll get there someday, somehow. But until then, we’ll have to find our relaxation in the woods, deep in the woods. Where they worries of the world can’t reach, and are no match for the solitude of nature.

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My Thoughts – If It Matters

As if we all were in some strange, messed up movie, it seems like all days are blending together. Weekends blend into weekdays, weeks into months, while none of us know what’s up from down.

All day long the television is loaded with talking heads, celebrities on Zoom telling us that we are all in this together, and companies somehow trying to convince us that Doritos are just what we need in these “unusual and unprecedented times.” It all becomes so frustrating, so mind numbing, and so confusing. What’s good for us? What do we do? When will this end?

Most of us have spent months trying to determine the best course of action on how to get us out of this, thinking about ways to lead us through the maze that is this virus. All the while trying to adapt to a new normal that is difficult to conceive. Every day we look at graphs, charts, predictions, and any other scientific data and understanding we can. We try to apply anything we have learned to the situation to desperately quell the spread.  And still, we have no answer. We are so close, but at the same time, we fight ourselves, and push ourselves deeper into the hole in every minute.

It’s the people who deny science, then demand a vaccine become available. The people who think the virus is a joke, only to beg for forgiveness when it attacks their lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. It’s okay to not know the answer, none of us do – but to knee-cap the very science and people trying to solve the biggest issue the world has seen in decades is incredibly dangerous, at best – let alone plain disrespectful.

We can go over the numbers again and again. We can talk about how it hit the amount of flu deaths in one month, we can talk about the concerning disease it is causing in the young and healthy, and we can talk about how it is decimating the most fragile our country has. But no matter what, it will only lead down the road of argumentative discourse. We don’t talk, we yell, we don’t think, we assume. All of this can be accepted, as long as we also accept the fact that we really don’t care about each other. It’s fun to pretend like we do, sharing strong words of encouragement, only to later uproot it with our careless actions and hypocritical rhetoric.

In a world where solutions are unknown, we take what we can get, we do what we can do. It’s a simple one at that, wear a mask. However, the word mask alone has turned into a four-letter-word of its own. It no longer is seen as a safety precaution, it’s now seen as a symbol of someone who has given up their rights, and are falling on their knees for the government. Forget the fact that we can still move about as we please, protest at will, and have free speech. To some, the masks are just too much. 

Somehow, we have gotten to the point where we assume doctors, who have spent their entire lives dedicated to scientific research and helping patients, are now part of this elaborate scheme to destroy the world. Some think the media is nothing more than a factory of detrimental fear-mongering information – when in reality, they’re just producing facts. Some feel they very people trying to save are are only trying to gain notoriety, and cash this virus like a check at the bank. 

But most shameful of all, is that we attack them. It’s bad enough not to trust and have faith in the people who know better than us, who have done their research – but it’s a whole other thing to attack them, belittle them, and make them question their own safety. Again coming down to the basic fact that some people only care about themselves, we only want to hear what is good for us, and anything else is evil.

Doctors are here to help, they’re here to care – and they’ll do it whether you feel you need them or not.

Every day we inch closer, to milestones none of us ever thought we’d see. One hundred thousand gone. They were brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and so much more. They had a story, they were meant to be someone, but their life was cut short by a virus that some deem as nothing more than a fabrication. If there is anything that is more painful, is that in someway, their death was in vain. They became the unknown, the disregarded, and the phony. There are some people who don’t know any of them, so for them their lives apparently mean nothing. But to someone else, they were the world, and now the families have to fight a second, possibly more unsettling, battle. The battle against those who simply don’t care.

Over and over again we hear how 99% recover, and “you’re probably going to be fine.” But when did that 1% of life not matter? When did we decide that giving up even a single life is justified in the name of getting a haircut. Out-loud, the argument sounds ridiculous, but it’s the one some use. Maybe deep down they know they are wrong, they feel bad about what they’re doing, but they feel safety in numbers since it never touched them. The 1% only matters when it begins to affect them.

People love to tout that we’re all in this together, but are we really? Do people deep down really care about what their neighbors are dealing with? If packed beaches and patios mean anything, if people totally refusing to follow even the most basic safety precautions, the answer is a resounding “no.”

Maybe the worst thing about this virus is the fact that it exploits the greatest weakness we have. In all reality, and more than likely, you’re going to be fine, but that doesn’t mean your family will be. In a sick twist, you could be your own nightmare, and bring the tragedy to your own doorstep. It’s not something that can be chosen, you can’t just ask it not to spread. We could be our own downfall, and we know it. And what’s most worrisome is that we don’t care. We don’t care that we can spread it to people at the store, the gym, or the var – because we don’t know them.

The virus doesn’t care that you think you’ll be okay, it doesn’t care that you’re a healthy adult, and it doesn’t care about your beach party. You may think there’s no way you’ll spread it, it’s silly. But the virus doesn’t care about that either.

But there is another side – and the fact that all of us truly do have these feelings. We feel invincible, that it can’t happen to us, and that it’s just a boogeyman that is being perpetuated by the very government of our towns. We all want to go back to normal, we all want to hug each other and see our friends again, and we all want to pretend this isn’t happening. But it is.

No one is perfect, I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be. But I hope I can still have respect for others, I hope I can worry about others, and I hope that I do my best to stop this the best that I can. 

It’s okay to have feelings of confusion, disappointment, and even anger at the situation. It’s okay to feel that maybe you’re being a little too cautious, that maybe it’s okay to return to normal and put this all behind us. But what isn’t okay is to be cavalier in logic that makes no sense, to recklessly endanger those around us simply because you’re upset that life isn’t the way you want it to be, and to attack those who are desperately trying to help, while also endangering everything they value – including their own lives. It’s not okay to attack and confront those just trying to do their best, trying to do what they feel is right, just trying to get by.

This virus is something we have never seen before, but unfortunately these attitudes are something we have dealt with forever.

The virus is bad, the virus kills – but what’s worse is how we have handled it. Maybe we can be better, maybe we can finally understand that life isn’t all about us, it’s about everyone. And while you may never know someone affected, they’re there. They’re real, and they’re all human.

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Presented Without Context

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Why Would Anyone Want To Be Creative?

It’s a nice Saturday night, and things seem to be winding down. The clock is inching toward the 1 a.m. tick, but really, the work is just beginning. The drummer is tearing down in the dark, noisy and cold backstage. He’s sweaty, his back is in pain and he’s more tired than if he had run a marathon.

Finally the bags are packed, the car is loaded and it’s time to get the night’s pay. However, he’s informed they simply did not sell enough tickets, and in fact, he owes the promoter $75 for the unsold goods. Not enough of his friends ended up making the show to cover the cost. Whether they were busy, or simply uninterested, the reason doesn’t matter. He, and the rest of the band, scrounge up what they didn’t spend at the burger joint earlier and pay their way out the door — working for a net negative. Oh well, maybe someone liked the new song they wrote.

It’s 11 p.m. The camera is on its dock, the SD card that is filled to capacity is loading onto his laptop. While about 90% of the photos aren’t up to par, there really are some he’s excited about. While the loading bar slowly slides to the right as progress is moving along, he decides to check his email, hoping there may be a response to one of quite literally hundreds of applications he’s put out over the weeks. Maybe someone has finally bought some of his work online – he’s already priced them as low as he can.

Nothing. But hey, apparently he has a rich uncle in a faraway land that is leaving him an inheritance, and all he has to do is email away his closest information. Sounds promising!

While both events sound like fiction, both are real, and both are mine.  Going through life with a creative mind, can seem like a superpower to most, can almost be a curse. As the years go on, gigs get harder to find, we plumet the asking price of works we pieced together over hours, and we patiently wait for someone to want what we have worked so hard to create.  While it’s not all doom and gloom, and I don’t intend to make it seem that way, it feels more and more that creativity just isn’t as respected as it once was, a fact that should be disappointing to us all.

I have been creative since I was a kid. I was never good at math or science, but I could tell a story to anyone. I had a weird ability to create a reality around me that seemed to spew from the recess of my imagination. Sometimes I’d draw (though admittedly not well), sometimes I would build roller coasters from old car tracks and legos, and sometimes I’d even simply scrawl ideas onto a crude journal I used to keep in my toybox. It made me happy, even though I didn’t really see it that way at the time. It was just something to do.

Eventually, I grew up. I learned an instrument, got into photography and still wrote from time to time. I abandoned my initial idea to be a meteorologist to go to college to be a radio broadcaster, and do photography on the side.

I was good at it, and I knew it. I loved cracking the mic, taking snapshots of what I saw around me and sharing it with others. At the time, I was still living the college dream, so I didn’t consider what was about to come: real life, bills and job prospects.

As things went on, jobs suddenly seemed scarce, the opinions people had of my work started to affect me more, and I started to blame myself for not going into something different. I had found something I was good at, and that I loved, but why did it have to be this? Why did it have to be the arts? Self-loathing set in from time to time, especially when I saw my peers going on to do great things in their fields such as nursing, business, etc.

Oddly enough, I never doubted my talent. I knew what I could do and I was proud of my talent, but I slowly became more bitter toward the way people view the works of others. Sure, I don’t know how to balance a company budget, I don’t know how to do your taxes, but I still have value. I can create your website, I can make things beautiful and I can entertain you. So why is this not respected? Why am I still struggling to scrape by, when my master’s degree is higher than even some of my colleagues?

It was easy for me to fall into the trap of anger toward things I cannot control, such as other’s lives and opinions. I also understand that people generally do not do such things on purpose; people aren’t inherently that condescending. However, I feel I have finally touched on what makes the creative field so difficult: Everyone thinks it’s easy.

Right now, you could go to an infinite number of websites and see an infinite number of things. Photography, music, art or stocks — the world is your oyster. This makes it indescribably easier to share works, ideas, thoughts and just about anything you want. Ironically, this is also a disaster for anyone hoping to base their income on such. It gives the field a facade that these things can be done in less than an hour, posted and create revenue, whether this is photography, music, podcasts or anything else that stems from imagination. It lowers the value of the very thing we’re trying to create. In a world of constant information being thrown in every direction, it’s easy to see how creative arts can get lost in the shuffle, and how their value can sink.

These things aren’t as easy as everyone makes it seem, however. No matter what artistic route you take, it can be a lengthy and difficult journey. A single piece takes time, effort, patience and mostly…luck. Just like in other fields, sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. And while this is fact, there is no artist out there that doesn’t love discovery and creation of a new piece, and the road it took to get there. There is nothing wrong with this, but sometimes we forget just how difficult it can be, and how loud the self-criticism can be.

Again, my work won’t ever save a life, balance a budget or even stock a shelf. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not important, it doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of respect, and it definitely does not mean it’s not worth its weight in society.

I’ll never stop being creative, and if you’re creative too, you shouldn’t either. While it can be stressful and scary at times knowing you’ve worked so hard in your life to get to a certain point, only for it to seem like it means nothing, it will always be the most fulfilling thing I can think of. No matter what, my art means something. And if it only means something to me, that’s just fine.

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Missing Arizona

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Sometimes, especially recently, I think about how easy the cacti have it in the desert sands of Arizona. They have been social distancing for decades, waiting around for the occasional spring rain.

Some have been there so long, they have seen the city grow, blossom, and became what it is today – visitors and all.

It’s so quiet in the mountains, you can hear a pin drop and the worries of the world are nonexistent. It makes me want to be there, and to forget all that we are dealing with.

Quiet nights, hot days, and the relaxing calm of the valley of the sun. I miss it – and I am eager to get on a plane and return.

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Summer Rising

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Are we finally there? Have we finally reached the top?  It’s hard to tell, but hope spring eternal, and as long as we have hope, we have a chance.

I miss this beach above in San Diego, it quickly became one of my favorite spots in the country. I dream of going back, and I dream of seeing this part of the country again. Now more than ever, I won’t ever take something like this for granted again.

We are so close, we can smell the flowers. It’s almost done.

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A Glimpse Into The Future

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Rain, snow, and the Summer sun – all in a weeks work for Ohio.

Almost teasing us with what we (may) have to look forward to, this state is a master at giving us a glimpse of a warm reprieve, then taking it away.

It seems now that every day is a new story, a new chapter, and a new world entirely that we will talk about for generations to come. While this photo was taken in a brief moment of hope, it soon turned back to bitter cold and white snow – reminding us where we truly live.

Soon this will be behind us, and we’ll probably have something else to worry about. But for now, we wait, and drink a lot of coffee.

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The First Night Of A Strange Summer

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What a night tonight.

Is it Summer?  Will it ever be summer?  WHO KNOWS. The good thing about it though is that while it won’t feel like summer for a little while, it will at least look like it.

I decided to cheer myself up a little bit and prepare the house for all of the cool nights, warm bonfires, and cold drinks. Only issue is that we had to do it alone. Nevertheless, after putting up our favorite lights, I noticed that there was still something normal for me to take a photo of, even in these wild times.

It was a bit of normalcy I very much welcomed. It was on a whim, and just an event of perfect timing. Hopefully we will all have this moment soon, and we can all play some corn-hole together – less than 6 feet together.

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Waiting On Spring

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